Dawn Forshaw (pictured) is impressed by the government’s long-term thinking that could improve education standards and the lives of young people
The government recently announced its 10-year Children’s Plan to raise standards and improve children’s lives. The plan represents a combination of previously announced measures and some new initiatives. Let us hope that by setting a strategic programme for the next 10 years we may, at last, see a real impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in our society.
According to the government, this long-term strategic plan is the culmination of 10 years of reforms and has been written after consulting parents and young people and, it is therefore claimed, reflects the concerns voiced by parents and young people in society today.
Central to the plan is £1bn allocated over three years to provide better support for parents and families. For children living in deprived communities there is an extension to the provision of free childcare to under-twos. The government has also earmarked £225m over three years to build or upgrade playgrounds and set up supervised adventure playgrounds for eight- to 13-year-olds in deprived areas. For older children, £160m is pledged to improve the quality and range of places for young people to go.
Within schools there will be yet another review of the primary curriculum, the third since it was set up in 1988, to look at how we can influence the quality of provision of English and maths. This is welcome as it signals a move away from the rather simplistic view that if we devote more time to teaching these subjects within a rigid and inflexible curriculum, then we will drive up standards. Finally, the government seems to be developing an awareness of what all good teachers know already: for children to become more proficient in the basic skills of English and maths there must be high quality, inspirational teaching based on sound fundamentals and reinforced through other subject areas.
It must be hoped that, as a result of this review, we will see even greater autonomy for headteachers and teachers to decide how best to embed the basic skills of literacy and numeracy through teaching in other areas of the curriculum, with less of the prescriptive approach that has been the recommended route in recent years. I await the publication of the findings in 12 months. One area that is of particular interest is the focus on easing the transition for very young children from their early school life into mainstream school, as there is room to improve continuity in approach in the provision of education for three- to five-year-olds.
As we have seen in the past, all too often governments announce headline-grabbing schemes which give the impression that the underlying problems have been understood and are being tackled. This has then too often been followed by disjointed strategies imposed on schools and other agencies and accompanied by multiple box-ticking targets with little additional funding or resources, which have had little or no impact on standards.
I sincerely hope that the new 10-year plan breaks this cycle and results in improved standards and a positive impact on the lives of all our children, and in particular the many children in our country who are still growing up in extreme deprivation.
Dawn Forshaw is the headteacher at Wellfield Church Primary School, Burnley, Lancashire